HHS awards $267M for health IT regional centers

Awards bring total to 60 health IT assistance centers nationwide

The Health and Human Services’ Department’s giving $267 million to 28 additional health information technology assistance centers will complete a nationwide network of 60 centers along with a central health IT research center, officials said.

HHS on April 6 announced the second round of awards for Health IT Regional Extension Centers, non-profit organizations that provide technical assistance to doctors and hospitals that select and implement electronic record systems.

The program is being funded under the $19 billion in health IT funding approved by Congress in the economic stimulus law. The bulk of that money, about $17 billion, will go directly to doctors and hospitals who buy and "meaningfully use" the digital systems. About $2 billion is going to the technical assistance centers and to state health information exchanges.

The goal of the regional extension centers is to assist smaller providers with implementing the systems and achieving meaningful use. The awards to the 28 centers range from $3 million to $28 million each. Some of the centers will offer services through videoconferencing and other telecommunications services.

The 60 centers nationwide seek to reach 100,000 primary care providers and hospitals in two years.

Two months ago, HHS officials announced $375 million awarded to 32 centers in the first round of awards. All the awardees have an opportunity to apply for two-year supplemental awards that total $25 million.

Supplementing the regional extension centers will be the Health IT Research Center, which will award a series of contracts, according to Yael Harris, director of the division of evaluation in the HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT. The research center is considered part of the regional extension center program, Harris said April 6 at an AFCEA conference.

The contracts to be awarded by the research center include funding for communications and information security, communities of practice, lessons learned, technical solutions, identification management solutions and analysis of barriers to health IT, Harris said.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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